Convenience Store Woman

Convenience Store Woman

Book - 2018
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The English-language debut of one of Japan's most talented contemporary writers, selling over 650,000 copies there, Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of "Smile Mart," she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction--many are laid out line by line in the store's manual--and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, andspeech of her colleagues, playing the part of a "normal" person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It's almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action...

A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

Publisher: New York : Grove Press, ©2018.
Edition: First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9780802128256
Characteristics: 163 pages ;,19 cm
Additional Contributors: Takemori, Ginny Tapley - Translator

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brangwinn
May 19, 2019

I loved this book, although I wanted to shake the main character and tell her to go out and explore and live a little. But then she lives in Japan, where individuality isn’t seen as an asset. I’m guessing she has some form of Asperger’s. She looks for guidance in navigating the social norms from her sister and she has found a job in a convenience store than suits her. I loved the “behind the scenes” look at what working in a Japanese store is like. Keiko is the kind of character who you worry about long after finishing the book, and this was a quick book to read.

i
Indoorcamping
May 11, 2019

This reminds me of "Slaves of New York" by Tama Janowitz in that this book is also a compelling, character-based quick read, quirkily-written and ultimately a simple sort of story that you can guess where it's going before it gets there. The character is original and special, in many layers, and that's what keeps you reading. You don't often get to give your consciousness over to a character this different and unlovely and, well, repellant. Yet you have to see where she takes you, even if you know by page 10 that this plot is going to end in an uneventful climax, likely having to do with accepting and owning the role of being a Convenience Store Woman, since that is the name of the book.

Culturally, this book paints a full picture of why being a convenience store woman in Japan is looked down upon, and some of that would apply anywhere. When someone doesn't try, doesn't seem to want to do better, wants to settle into what's comfortable and yet seems like they have so much more potential than a menial job, it's natural to feel at odds with that decision. This goes inside the head of such a person and shows that maybe the uncomfortable feeling is yours alone. Living your best life is living your life and taking responsibility for your decisions. Other people can give advice, judge, admonish, look down, disrespect, but they aren't living the consequences. By the end of this book, you understand what it must be like to live a life you enjoy that really pisses off everyone in your life.

Huh. I got more out of this little book than I originally thought. Maybe it's worth five stars after all.

s
spantell
May 02, 2019

An interesting book, written in a unique way, almost a parable. It is about pressures to conform, and I think it applies just as well to American culture, though the details are a bit different. I think that giving the character a label like autism spectrum really misses the point because labeling anyone who is different and making them feel that there is something wrong with them is exactly the problem the book addresses.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 26, 2019

A very strange, very original little book from Japan. I loved it! Maybe if Kafka were a Japanese woman living in the 21st century and working in a convenience store, he'd write something like this. The author actually does work part-time in a convenience store. One of 2018's most "buzzed" about books.

k
kelatta
Feb 21, 2019

This was an odd book, but I'll never forget it. As someone with little experience of Japanese literature and culture, I'm sure there are many layers that I missed. At the same time, as a commentary on contemporary urban life, it certainly transcends. Very well worth the quick, quirky read.

r
ryankuang
Jan 29, 2019

A quirky read on Japanese societal expectations and individual sense of self worth.

IndyPL_TimothyV Jan 28, 2019

This novel tackles issues of individuality and conformity by exploring a character who survives by effacing herself rather than resisting the prevailing culture.

Keiko works in a convenience store because it gives her both a purpose and clear instructions as to how she should behave, from the proper way to greet customers to her priorities when off the job. Normal human interactions are not comprehensible to her, and so she adopts the characteristics of the people around her as a way to fit in, imitating clothing styles and patterns of speech. In this sense, Keiko is charming in her earnestness; we root for her because she is an outcast struggling to carve out a proper life. Even so, through her eyes we encounter a world that is devoid of typical emotional connotations; meals, birds, even babies are perceived with an unflinching, clinical gaze. Katie Waldman of the New York Times compares Keiko's demeanor to that of a friendly alien scientist. This feels accurate, as Keiko can analyze everything, even the contempt of other people, with self-assured detachment.

Keiko’s delicately balanced world is thrown into turmoil by her inability to progress from her part-time employment into a role that is considered proper. How she deals with these pressures forms the darkly comedic core of this very unusual novel.

Convenience Store Woman is Murata's tenth novel, but the first to be translated into English.

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ms_mustard
Jan 13, 2019

I agree with the comment below - a woman on the autism spectrum with added layers of Japanese cultural expectations.
I loved the ending

s
swpease
Jan 09, 2019

It was an easy read, but the cover implies a quirky, slice-of-life comedy, which isn't accurate. The main character made me wonder if she was a caricature or if there are actually people like her. As a result, I didn't really sympathize.

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AndyJ97
Dec 19, 2018

I read this short novel in a day and I enjoyed it, but it didn't make much of an impression until a few weeks later, after reading a Korean novel (City of Ash and Red) featuring another 'misfit' who also reaches the end of the story with an ambivalent attitude towards life. Part of the fascination of both stories is how different individual agency is respected (or not) in Asian cultures compared to American/Western ones.

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asiaklg
Sep 28, 2018

asiaklg thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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